I didn’t think anything could make me feel sorry for Octomom, a.k.a. Nadya Suleman, the serial baby-machine who is a one-woman bioethics seminar with some child exploitation thrown in for spice. Then along came People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the ethically-challenged animal rights fanatics. PETA believes that no person or thing on earth deserves consideration, fairness or respect if he, she or it can be used to advance its message. A few months ago, it plastered the First Lady on some of the organization’s ads without her permission, because it knew that the publicity over this obvious violation of Michelle Obama’s right to be consulted before being used this way would get PETA in the news. And it did.
When you turn off the ethics alarms that are supposed to sound before you violate a person’s dignity, autonomy and self-respect, it is amazing what schemes you can come up with. So when PETA learned that Suleman was about to lose her home in a foreclosure, its brain trust thought, “Wow, she must be desperate. And she obviously has no shame. I bet she’ll do anything for money! It probably won’t even have to be much money, either.”
Nope. For $5,000 and a month’s supply of veggie burgers and hot dogs, Octomom agreed to let PETA compare her to household pets and her children to a litter. She will allow the group to put a sign in her front yard proclaiming, “Don’t Let Your Dog or Cat Become an Octomom! Always Spay or Neuter!”
Just because an individual of questionable judgement or in desperate straits agrees to let you humiliate them, exploit them or harm them doesn’t change the nature of the act. PETA is using the combination of Suleman’s financial plight and congenital absence of the normal shame impulse to make her and her brood their freakish billboard. They might as well have asked her to tattoo the message on her face, or exhibit herself with her kids in a giant terrarium on the front lawn from 9 to 5. This is the organization, after all, that objected to the exploitation of Punxsutawney Phil to promote Groundhog Day, and Phil doesn’t have the slightest idea that he is being exploited. Yet it will exploit a woman and her children, objectifying them, stripping them of human dignity and subjecting them to public degradation in the name of “ethics.”
What PETA is doing is not illegal. It is merely cruel, uncaring and wrong. The organization’s conduct proves that it has no ethical bearings at all, only a fixed, relentlessly pursued mission that it will stop at nothing to achieve. When an organization’s membership slips into this kind of an ethics void, our obligation is to reject it and its message, until a responsible, ethical messenger arrives.